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Twilight Of The Dark Master

directors: Akiyuki Shinbo, Jack Fletcher

46 minutes (18) 1997 widescreen ratio 16:9
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
The Great Mother brought all into being, including mankind, "frail ones who grovel and strive, weak ones who are always afraid." So she added to the primeval broth the demons, creatures not tied by conscience that could scare and drive mankind into activity, with the product flaw that in their guiltlessness they naturally get carried away with it until the Great Mother has no alternative but to create super-keepers, the Guardians. Thirty years after thousands of people were wiped out in a white light, a new city within a bigger city has risen; those living inside damned one way or another. A romantic episode gives way to mutation and the young woman, Shizuka, being separated not only from her fiance but the left arm below the elbow. Tasers aren't bringing this monster down but it is captured on the orders of the mysterious Takamiya. Doing the dirty work are various underlings, hard-man Kudo and super siblings Huang and Chen Long. To give you a taste of how nasty the latter brother and sister combination are, following an attempt to destroy the Guardian and thereupon accused by Huang of finding the Guardian attractive, this is what Chen confesses: "It's the thought of his body ripped apart sinking into a sea of his own blood makes me wet, brother of mine." Quite! But, who in this camp is the demon?
   The Guardian is Tsunami Shijo, a sliver of a face under fronds of blond hair, a still-like presence with powers so great that battling terrible evil is reduced to being a bit of a doddle, that robs the film of concern. In his corner is Tenku, a simple youth that Tsunami has adopted as both a dealer in iconographic artefacts and curator to his art collection. Add to there fold the girl that Tenku rescues from an amok gunman in the streets. It is Shizuka, her lost limb replaced with a metal one, down at heel but still out for revenge. The monster is kept at the Crystal Box, a nightclub where girls have been going missing, the topless lovelies going on a post-coital nosy around rooms in search of their client's wealth and discovering only that it is feeding time for the brute. The monsters, however, are being made not by God but by a bio-capsule muscle enhancement drug laced with a 'latent' virus that mutates the user. At this point I had better stop, not even clue you into the shock finale, that is upon you so quickly that it cannot help but stun you, upon you that fast because the programme is too short. Crammed full of action as this adult anime tale is, the running time is only 46 minutes, so it is no sooner begun than it is time to acknowledge that it is over, it is like having the plate pulled from under you half-eaten, you are left hungry for more.
   In the early stages Twilight Of The Dark Master, based on the graphic novel Shihaisha No Tasogare by Saki Okuse, feels like the storyboard for a horror film you really want to see the live action footage of. The visuals are good but some cheating on the animation is apparent, though only on odd occasions, it still stands out badly. A shot of the demon and the guardian in the distant sky and an extreme close-up of the still mask of Takamiya linger inactively, the latter particularly reminding you that it is simple art, when this is, shall we remind them, animation. There is only 46 minutes to fill and they are already operating circa 12 frames per second. The cheek! There is rich imagination and good dialogue that would be welcome in live-action features: "Come and live inside me and bring your soul, what little you have left." The music of Keisha Urata has some remarkable moments, particularly when Shizuka returns to the story dazed and in the rain. The sound is like a warped gamelan conceding to a metal tinged slumping hardcore.
   The shortness of length is a major gripe, particularly as in its wake is the feeling that something has been left out, that filler might provide artistic place, or more backstory could have given the viewer time to find appeal in the participant characters. As it is there is not the time to begin to believe in these cartoons, it is stuck on fast-forward, unintentionally loud ephemera, embarrassing the studier, if not the considerer too, so successfully has it warped time in the viewing experience; who lends importance to a blink. Twilight Of The Dark Master does not hang around long enough to impress.
   The supporting material includes an unnecessary Art Gallery of little content and 'propagandai of which I approve, some well compiled trailers for other titles, nearly all of which, Biohunter, Pyscho Diver: Soul Siren and Ninja Chronicles: The Series, show immense promise, backed up by some choice heavy sound. Creating the Cover Art by Hisashi Abe is a speed-up on the hands of the artist in question at work to dreamy Spanish guitar with an electric resonance sound that recalls Felt (the people at Urban Vision and Madman really know their atmospheric music, light and hard) and at the end of the 12 minutes it makes you want to pick up a pencil again and engage in a bit of HB yourself. In an interesting tit-bit the nascent Huang and Chen would appear to be voiced by the real-world siblings John and Julia De Mita. A good disc that could have been more, don't get carried away spending more money than necessary on it.
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